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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

New Treatments Take On Multiple Sclerosis

A microscopic view of the effects of multiple sclerosis on nerve tissue. (Wikimedia Commons)

A microscopic view of the effects of multiple sclerosis on nerve tissue. (Wikimedia Commons)

On Monday, the Irish Supreme Court rejected 59-year-old quadriplegic Marie Fleming’s plea to be able to end her life with the help of her common-law husband because she can no longer do it herself.

It’s a reminder of the horror of multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease of the central nervous system characterized by the progressive degeneration of neurons.

But other patients have different experiences.

Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s wife Ann Romney, for instance, has lived in remission for years.

Ann Romney, wife of former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, says her love of horses helped her overcome her fear that multiple sclerosis would put her in a wheelchair. (Ida Mae Astute/ABC's Good Morning America via AP)

Ann Romney has said her love of horses helped her overcome her fear that multiple sclerosis would put her in a wheelchair. (Ida Mae Astute/Good Morning America)

We check in on treatment of the disease with Dr. James Bowen, who writes about the latest research in the current issue of Scientific American.

Doctors still don’t know what triggers MS and they don’t have a cure for it, but new and developing drug therapies have helped many MS patients lead longer lives with less disability.

And Dr. Bowen says about half of his rapidly-degenerating patients who have had bone marrow transplants to treat the disease have seen a reduction in symptom flare-ups.

For some, the disease stabilized for as long as six years.

MS Studies Recommended By Scientific American:


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  • MS Survivor in Oregon

    I was diagnosed in December of 2012 with MS and I have done a tremendous amount of learning on the topic. Thank you for raising awareness and creating a conversation about MS. People need to know what it is, how it could affect them (and those who they love) and how they can help find a cure/treatment.  

  • Mlgard

    My mom has been diagnosed with MS for as long as I can remember (almost 30 years), and the hardest part that I can tell for her are when she is suffering from symptoms that others cannot see.  MS is a disease that physically causes issues, but it also cause neurological issues, and those are the hardest to deal with.  Someone once described it to me in the best way I’ve heard yet – They said that for those of us without MS our brains are like a perfectly running highway system, with everything running smoothly and on time. However, for a person with MS, their brain is like a highway system under construction, with detours and side routes all over the place – they are still able to get to the information, it just might take a bit longer. 

    For my mom, this is the hardest part – getting people to not treat her as if she has dementia (where you can no longer access the information at all), but rather be patient with her and let her remember things.

  • Texascubbie

    I was intrigued when a friend called to tell me the interview was on, but the question which was, essentially, “Is everybody doomed?” who has MS was a remarkably poorly-phrased one, and plays into far too many ignorant ideas about MS. That’s been one of the hardest struggles for me after being diagnosed in 2009– the “poor you!” misplaced concern. Yes, I may end up in a wheelchair. Yes, I hurt and ache and have cognitive issues. So?  I deal with it, as we all deal with our issues.

     I do appreciate the awareness-raising– I agree with the person from Oregon who commented: if you are diagnosed with MS, learn everything you possibly can about the history, pathology, treatments, and news. That helps to reduce *some* of the fear of a insidious disease.

    • Gary Scott

      My daughter was diagnosed with MS in December 2012 after 2 attacks of optic neuritis.The neurologist arranged for 2 MRI’s and a spinal tap. At one stage the neurologist thought she may have Devics disease.  The MRI’s came back clear but the spinal tap came back positive for MS and a blood test came back negative for Devics disease.
      She also suffers severe pains in both legs and has started on Beterferon injections. Her eyes recovered from the optic neuritis after several weeks without any treatments. 
      Although my daughter is in the early stages of MS we will see how she progresses over the next few years. If the MS progresses quickly we have decided we will apply for HSCT (Chemo / stem cell treatment) in either Germany or India. I have researched the treatment extensively and this is not an easy option but the nearest thing to a cure that is available.

      • Emilyjena

         You can’t anticipate this disease, which is one of the hardest things about it.  BG-12 (Tecfidera) may not be for everyone, but for me it was way better than Avonex, copaxone, or Azathioprine(what the Germans used to use with ms, an immunosuppressant). Don’t plan for the worst. There is no cure just as there is no one type of ms.

        • Gary Scott

          I am not anticipating the disease, I am planning for my daughters future. 
          Just like everything in nature, there are no “certainties” in life, just “probabilities.” HSCT does not stop every case of MS progression in all patients. Although, if MS is stopped in a given patient via HSCT, then so far all indications is that it remains stopped and there is no further disease progression.

  • Bridget

    In February 2009 I lost my mother who had suffered with MS for 33 years. She had a very rare/aggressive form of the disease and couldn’t raise my brother and I because of it. At the time of her diagnosis, in 1976, doctors knew so little about the disease that they actually told her not to get pregnant because they didn’t know what would happen if she did. It’s comforting to hear that modern advancements in medicine/treatment have allowed other sufferers to lead fuller, uninterrupted lives. MS is a frightening disease for sufferers and their families and I urge those going through what I went through to not lose hope. Learn what you can about the disease and communicate openly with each other. You are not alone.

  • Mary Smith

    I guess I am a bit disillusioned with the new medications. Who, other than Ann Romney can  afford them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kim.gaston.92 Kim Gaston

      First of  all, the “new” medications are not much better than the ones that have been on the market since the mid 90′s. And second, anyone with insurance gets the same as she gets. She isn’t privy to some magical cure because she is better off.

      • Robert Lawson

        Previous MS meds have about a  25 – 35 %
        success rate of holding off attacks by suppressing the immune system. 
        Tecfidera does it by promoting a part of the immune system and has a 50%
        success rate.

        Don’t get me wrong… I’ve had nothing but bad experiences with the other meds.  However, the side effects of Tecfidera:

        Possible diarrhea,
        stomach ache,
        and head ache…

        for the first month. 

        This sounds like living with kids after they bring crap home from the playground.  That’s nothing…I’m in..

        I start in June.  :)

        Check it out for yourselves.  http://www.tecfidera.com

    • Robert Lawson


      Don’t be discouraged as I was too.  However, Tecfidera (BG-12) , the new oral drug, is available to anyone
      for a $10/month copay from the company.  Everyone, including myself who is still struggling on unemplyment,
      can finally afford it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/FAC01123 Frank Churchill
  • emilyjena

    I’ve been on BG 12 for 4.5 years (participating in the stage 3 trial) and going strong…not a single flare-up. Feels like a silver bullet, something I’ve never believed in. But this is a game-changer without ANY significant side-effects (hot flashes are way worse than the occasional flushing). What’s interesting is the connection to psoriasis. The drug is an oral fumarate and a form of it was used in Germany to treat that condition (also an autoimmune disorder).

    • Robert Lawson

       That’s why I’ve gotten lined up to start in June.  :)


  • electrode

    Anne Romneys MS has been in remission for years thats good news ,i would not   wish this plague on any one, but what would she know than of what the average person goes through, time dulls her memory of what its truly like , not that you can completely forget, I have Secondary Progressive  MS , no cure no treatment unlike RRMS they at least get a relapse plus ALL medication is developed with them in mind none what so ever for Secondary Progressive none unless they are holding back .

    All meds are developed for RRMS, a hundred or more years they have been researching MS and all they can come up with is 9 or so meds for only RRMS , and they have nasty side effects , are ridiculously expensive , plus they dont even know what causes MS so how can they treat it with medications that their unsure of what the results are , a few have side effects which cause death or severe disability yet are still authorized by government , sold at exorbitant costs and the results in a good percentage of times is near failure, yet the Drug Companys sell them with out any remorse as long as they get paid and get paid big.

    Any alternatve treatments and therapys have been discouraged or have been outrightly denigrated and slurred, the researchers still use the Auto-Immune Theory –Mouse Model which is outdated if not the wrong direction but will not look at different directions which may uncover some thing helpful , in fact they may be wasting valuable time ,money and resources chasing their own tails too afraid to admit defeat and more importantly their monetary incentive which is huge, and this is all at the expense of our suffering and pain ,not only the patient but family and friends included.


    • Robert Lawson

       I agree.

      They would rather keep treating this as an auto immune issue when it could be a side effect of something viral in nature, instead of admitting defeat due to a possible bruised ego.

      I personally think it has to do with the food.  All the damn chemicals, GMO’s, and all of that.

      Since you have SPMS, have you looked into the Dr. Wahl’s diet?  She rebounded pretty well from her SPMS (was in a wheelchair for years… but not now) with a very natural approach (even though she’s a doctor), using foods.

      Here’s her site and story.  Check it out.  :)


      Robert Lawson

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=741924006 Lori Batchelor

    Video re-make without music so it can be viewed on mobility devices:

    You be the judge, take 2–no music!

  • Segrio

    I greatly appreciate your interest in bringing this topic up on the air. I think MS, amongst all other autoimmune diseases takes great place in the research community. I think it should be talked about more, especially on the radio, because s it happened with me, the fact that I heard it made me think about it more and think how I can contribute to finding the cure for it. Having major in Biology, made me rethink what I want to focus on in the future, and it might as well be research on Multiple Sclerosis. Thank you for such a great interview. 

  • Alan

    Yes,(with all due respect) enough about the RRMS!  There is a lot of news regarding breakthroughs with new drugs, the so-called ABC drugs, etc.  Well-meaning friends get all excited when they hear anything on the news, but none of it is ever about the “Chronic Progressive” variety that I have had since 1997.  I did the only thing that was offered:  Thirty chemo treatments, (Cytoxin and Prednizone), spread out over a four year period.  The goal was to slow down the progression of the disease.  Did it accomplish this?  Your guess is as good as mine!

    • Tammy_marlar_donaldson

      My dad has ppms. He worked around agente Orange in Vietnam after he Came home i was his first born child and i now have rrms after weedeating old Bush that had been sprayed with roundup. I first developed a rash Called eczema it wouldnt go away until a shot of cortisone. After that i had a stresser and i develop rr ms. Gotta be something happening

  • how can she slap?

    i have MS, have had it for four years. it is all that damn burgerking i been eating for the past 15 years. I cut fast food, dairy,soda, red meat, potatoes, tomatoes, all oils except coconut, peanuts, wheat and most legumes,  included wheat grass juice,  lots of greens, brown rice, heart/kidny/liver, water, low heat cooked or raw, sprouted lentils mung beans, naltrexone 4.5 mg and yoga and ia m almost 100% healed. I hope this info helps anyone with MS. Remember, there is no one cure for MS, it varies from person to person, as the symptoms do. find out what works for you. stay away from injections, they are lethal in the longer term. one last advice, eat at home, make your own food. eat
    Zero processed food, and buy organic if you can. shop organic smart look online how.

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